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The Deer Hunter(1978)
Michael, Steven and Nick are young factory workers from Pennsylvania who enlist into the Army to fight in Vietnam. Before they go, Steven marries the pregnant Angela and their wedding-party is also the men's farewell party. After some time and many horrors the three friends fall in the hands of the Vietcong and are brought to a prison camp in which they are forced to play Russian roulette against each other. Michael makes it possible for them to escape, but they soon get separated again.
For more about The Deer Hunter and The Deer Hunter Blu-ray release, see The Deer Hunter Blu-ray Review
Starring: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale, Meryl Streep, John Savage, George Dzundza
Director: Michael Cimino
» See full cast & crew
The Deer Hunter Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 11, 2009
Winner of five Oscar Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Michael Cimino's "The Deer Hunter" (1978) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of UK-based distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. Amongst the supplemental features on the disc are: an audio commentary with director Michael Cimino; "Vietnam War: Unknown Images", a France 3-INA Etreprise documentary; an interview with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond; theatrical trailer and more. The disc arrives with a fully illustrated 20-page booklet containing an essay by film critic Ryan Gilbey. With optional English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, Turkish and Japanese subtitles. Region-A/B "locked".
Michael Cimino's award-winning The Deer Hunter is divided into three parts. During the first part, we are introduced to all of the main characters in the film – Michael (Robert De Niro, Ragin Bull), Steven (John Savage, Hair), Nick (Christopher Walken, King of New York), Stan (John Cazale, The Godfather), John (George Dzundza, Dangerous Minds), Axel (Chuck Aspegren), and Linda (Meryl Streep, Sophie's Choice). We quickly learn that Steven is going to marry the love of his life, Angela (Rutanya Alda, Amityville II: The Possession), and immediately after that head to Vietnam together with Michael and Nick.
Steven is a second generation Russian immigrant, and even though he and his friends live in a small town in the middle of nowhere - actually, somewhere in Pennsylvania - his wedding is enormous. In fact, it very much looks like an Italian wedding, one that you would see in New York City. During the wedding, Michael falls for Linda, but she promises to marry Nick when he comes back from Vietnam. The day before Michael, Steven and Nick leave America, everyone goes deer hunting.
The second part of the film takes us to Vietnam. Michael, Steven and Nick are captured by a group of Vietnamese soldiers. They are asked to play Russian roulette while the soldiers are watching and betting money on who would survive the game. Somehow, the three friends manage to escape, but Steven breaks his legs, and, later on, they are amputated.
The final part of the film is the most powerful one. Michael returns home to Pennsylvania but immediately discovers that a lot has changed. Even though everyone welcomes him back, he feels like a foreigner. When he sees Linda, something inside him snaps.
Nick is treated in a military hospital in Vietnam. He is so severely traumatized, however, that for awhile he cannot even remember the names of his parents. When he is finally released, Nick befriends a shady Frenchman, who promises to make him rich if he agrees to play Russian roulette professionally.
Steven is transported back to America, but he refuses to go home to his wife. When Michael visits the hospital where he lives, Steven reveals to him that Nick is still in Saigon. Michael immediately heads to Vietnam, hoping to bring him back home. He manages to find Nick, but his friend does not recognize him.
In the audio commentary included with this Blu-ray disc, director Cimino explains that The Deer Hunter came to exist only because a British company, EMI, was brave enough to fund it. According to director Cimino, there was absolutely no way the film could have been made in America.
The Deer Hunter has been labeled by many as "anti-war", and sadly this is probably one of the key reasons why it was deemed unsuitable for the American market in the early 80s. Ironically, even though today the film seems harmless, many of the serious questions it indirectly asks - such as whether American soldiers had to be sent to Vietnam - are not irrelevant. After all, America is in the middle of yet another war, and many ordinary Americans are probably facing the exact same dilemmas a few of the main characters in the film are seen struggling with.
The acting is very strong. Robert De Niro plays the tough but emotionally brittle Michael to perfection. The scene where he sees Linda for the first time after he comes back from Vietnam and could barely put two sentences together is amongst the best in the film. John Savage's acting is also outstanding. The scene in the VA hospital where he begs Michael not to take him home to his wife is gut-wrenching. It is Christopher Walken's tremendous character transformation, however - just look at the happy man that he is in beginning of the film and then compare him with the madman Michael meets in Saigon - that makes The Deer Hunter a very special experience.
The Deer Hunter Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in am aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with VC-1 and granted a 1080p transfer, Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of UK-based distributors Optimum Home Entertainment.
As it was the case with the transfer for Optimum Home Entertainment's release of Luis Buñuel's Belle de jour, a film that was also released as part of the Studio Canal Collection, the transfer for The Deer Hunter is most definitely not flawless, but it is the best one that I have seen. Michael Cimino's award-winning film looks quite fresh here; detail is very pleasing and clarity surprisingly good. With a few minor exceptions - that occur mostly during the second half of the film where there is plenty of raw footage showing the chaos at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon - contrast levels are also excellent. The film's color-scheme is convincing. Reds, blues, greens, browns, blacks and whites look natural. Mild-edge enhancement is noticeable during selected scenes, but it is never overly distracting. On a positive side, macroblocking is most definitely not an issue of concern. Additionally, the film's grain structure is mostly kept intact. There are, however, a few minor stability issues that I noticed. For example, when Michael returns from Vietnam and goes back to Linda's house, there is mild shimmering around the edges. On the other hand, I did not see any disturbing scratches, debris, cuts, or warps to report in this review. To sum it all up, there is definitely some room for improvement with the transfer, but I have absolutely no problem recommending Optimum Home Entertainment's Blu-ray release to you. Simply put, The Deer Hunter has never looked this good. (Note: This disc is coded for Regions A and B. Therefore, in order to access its content, you must have a native Region-A, native Region-B, or Region-Free player. For the record, the main menu could be set in one of the following languages: English (Australian territories), Danish, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, English (UK territories), and Japanese).
The Deer Hunter Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are six audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. I opted for the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track and later on did a few random comparisons with the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track for the purpose of this review.
There are no serious technical issues to report with the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. Obviously, it has not been meticulously restored - for example, if you turn the volume up a lot, you should easily hear mild hissing - but it allows one to follow the dialog without a problem. Also, there are no serious issues to report with Stanley Myers' wonderful music score.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, however, is problematic - it is incorrectly pitched. The easiest way to hear how drastic the difference is between the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track and the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is if you switched between the two during the opening credits where there is a wonderful guitar solo - on the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, the pitch is higher by nearly a half tone. Most of you should be able to notice the alteration even when there is no music at all - Christopher Walken's voice, for example, sounds very strange. The good news, of course, is that if you select the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, you won't have to worry about any of these pitch-related issues.
Finally, Optimum Home Entertainment have provided optional English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, Turkish and Japanese subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The Deer Hunter Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: All of the supplemental features on this Blu-ray disc are encoded in 480/60i. Therefore, they are perfectly playable on Region-A PS3s and SAs.
Presentation by Mickey Rourke - the American quickly addresses the film's message as well as its impact on his life. (3 min).
Vietnam War: Unknown Images - a France 3-INA Etreprise production showing unseen or censored images from the Vietnam War found in the U.S. Army archives. Please note that some of the footage is extremely disturbing. In French, with English subtitles. (48 min).
Realising the Deer Hunter - a very informative interview with director Michael Cimino in which he discusses the message of his film, how the film could not be made in the U.S. at the time, the filming locations, etc. (24 min).
Shooting the Deer Hunter - cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond discusses the many obstacles he and the technical crew had to overcome while shooting the film. (16 min).
Playing the Deer Hunter - John Savage talks about his father, who went to Vietnam, and how what he told him about the war helped him out with the character he played in the film. The actor also discusses the political controversy surrounding the film as well as some of the more challenging scenes from it. (16 min).
Commentary - this is the same audio commentary by director Michael Cimino that was made available in the UK quite some time ago via the local SDVD release of The Deer Hunter. The commentary is incredibly informative. Director Cimino explains why his film was funded by a UK company, why the film could not have been made in the U.S., what it meant to those who were involved with its production, how the political controversy that surrounded the film affected him and the actors, etc.
Trailer - (3 min).
BD Functionality -
Booklet - a 20-page illustrated booklet containing an essay by film critic Ryan Gilbey.
The Deer Hunter Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter is the latest addition to the Studio Canal Collection. Despite a few minor flaws in the audio and video departments, this Blu-ray disc is very easy to recommend. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
The Deer Hunter: Other Editions
The Deer Hunter Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Studio Canal Collection Gets Detailed - September 16, 2009
Our British mates of DVD Times have listed the full release details of seven titles that Optimum Home Entertainment is releasing on Blu-ray on September 28 under the "Studio Canal Collection": 'Belle de jour', 'The Deer Hunter', 'The Elephant Man', 'Last Year In ...
• Optimum Unleashes Blu-ray Deluge - June 2, 2009
Optimum Home Entertainment has added nearly forty catalog titles to its Blu-ray schedule, for release between July and September 2009. Titles run the gamut of genres, from Hong Kong martial arts to European arthouse classics, and more Luc Besson than you can ...
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